Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Don Winslow

Arrow Books, 2011

Ben and Chon grow marijuana. Best marijuana in California. The total market is theirs, and the money flow like water (although Ben and Chon almost doesn’t think about them). They had clashes with other drug gangs, but the conflicts were resolved quickly. Chon is a former SEAL mercenary, had participated in military operations in Afghanistan, and therefore knows how to get rid of enemies. Chong is the muscle, Ben is the brain. He is responsible for the financial side of things. Ben still obsessed with oriental scholars, engaged in charity work in third world countries, and tries to be a real Buddhist. They are both in love with the local Playgirl carefree Ophelia, whose friends call her just O. And O, in turn, is in love with Ben and Chon, not preferring one to another.

Friends enjoy life, smoke their own product, admire the beauty around. Until Chon receives an email from the Baja Cartel with the video of cut off heads. Chon and Ben risk of losing their own heads if they do not work for the cartel. And the cartel, and the head of the cartel Elena Lauter, has its own problems, so the cartel has to expand - from Mexico to California, fror hard drugs to distributing marijuana. Chon and Ben used to work for themselves and are not willing to work for someone. Friends understand that together they can not cope with an army of mercenaries. Ben wants out and to leave for for Asia, but Chon is ready to fight. During the first meeting with the cartel’s representatives Ben and Chon tell the Mexicans to go away (see the first chapter), and Elena does not like it. But the savages have to fight with wild and cruel methods.

(Ben wants peace.
Chon knows
You can't make peace with savages.)

Corrupt DEA agent gives advice to friends: «You want my advice, boys? And girl? I'll miss you, I'll miss your money, but run.» Friends do not have time to leave, and the cartel kidnaps Ophelia, and Ben and Chon are in trouble up to their necks.

Winslow tells his story playfully, provocative, inserting in the text unusual abbreviations (for example, O calls her mother Paqu - Passive Aggressive Queen of the Universe), lists (hilarious) and politically incorrect jokes. If I write that Winslow wrote his novel in poem-prose, I will be laughed at and probably will hear "You exaggerate", but in this case it is not an exaggeration. Winslow writes poetry and prose by inserting fragments of free verse in his prose.

(O's face
Lights up when she sees them
Big smile. «Hi, guys!»

Antsy style helps the story to move with an exorbitant rate. Winslow throws the reader sentences like a stick to the dog – get it. And the reader is running, because he can not not to. (In this case you don’t feel yourself like a dog, Winslow avoids cheap tricks.)

The story told in the book is very rooted in reality. The author with incredible authenticity describes how a large cartel works. Winslow knows what he writes about.

At the same time, the novel is over the top, everything there is exaggerated. Cool characters, cool story, cool violence, cool villains, and if Winslow stoped somewhere between fairy tale and reality, «Savages» would have been nothing more than a mediocre action thriller, with cardboard characters and over-embellished story. But Winslow is over the top in everything, and in this lays book's success.

Drug dealing for Ben and Chon is a hobby, but this hobby brings good money. They violate the law, but you sympatize them. The more fun it was to get to the end of the book, and see how it would end. Will the author punish the heroes who are essentially criminals too, but not as brutal as the Baja Cartel, or won’t? (Personally, I was happy with the ending.) No less interesting in the novel a love triangle is. Relationship between two friends and a girl is not about the type that we see often in crime films or books. All three lovers do not envy each other. Ben doesn’t want to have Ophelia alone, Chon doesn’t as well. O also selects the two of them. It's a free love, and in that its manifestation is rarely come across in American literature (although the word "love" here does not mean platonic love, a threesome is there, all right).

Winslow wrote GONRI (Gripping Original Novel, Read It).


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